Transforming the Old, In with the Bold

Give your home an instant lift with tips from architectural legend and award-winning interior designer Sunita Kohli

Interior designer, architectural restorer and furniture manufacturer Sunita Kohli knows more than anyone about transforming old and tired spaces.

The last 40 years have seen her restore and decorate prestigious buildings across India, Pakistan, Bhutan and Sri Lanka—from forts and palaces to riverboats and museums.

Most famously, she converted the official residence of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi into a memorial museum.

So if you’re thinking about redecorating, Sunita certainly has tips to help. She talks to us about the latest trends and how to refresh a room with colour. 

Sunita on… TRENDS
“Of course people want contemporary homes, but having said that, I’m finding that the trend is for contemporary homes with mid-century furniture, art deco furniture, even contemporised classical pieces. We’re seeing more colours coming in—rather than having homes that are flat and monochromatic. We like colour!”

Sunita on… GOOD DESIGN

“A well-designed room has to make its own design statement, without a single item of furniture or soft furnishings. Its walls, doors, windows, ceiling and flooring, these are important things—what a house is all about. Without embellishment or artwork on the walls, that’s when you know the strength of good design. Walls are the starting point.”

A focal wall in grey granite


“There’s a lot of focus you can bring to a room by adding colour—maybe not on all the walls, but certainly on focal walls. The best focal walls are those that are not punctured by doors or windows. Usually in a living space, it’s the main sofa wall. These are the sort of walls that you should concentrate on, either with colours or finishes.”

A sparkling dining room wall


“We made one powder room into a jewelled box. On the walls we had used an Italian stone that had natural fossils in it; and the ceiling was done with a special finish of marble. So when you were inside, it was like being inside a jewelled box.”

Sunita on… PAINT

“The easiest way to refresh a room is to paint it. Paint is the easiest way of bringing about change and it immediately uplifts any room. If you really want to introduce a change that gets immediate attention, colour a wall. There are also plenty of special paint finishes that come ready-made, which is a very unique way of doing something.”

Colour plays a very important role in adding design value to a long and narrow bathroom

Sunita on…TEXTURES

“The more textures you use, the better. Applying multiple textures to a space is important—from the floor coverings right up to the ceilings. It’s a very big trend at the moment and it’s here to stay for a while. Paint is the easiest texture to apply. Interesting paints are very much something that designers and architects use and the quality and variety of paint available today, compared to when I started 40 years ago, is really impressive.”

Sunita on… COLOUR

“People are becoming less afraid of colour. How you use colour is such an important thing. If you’re using a strong colour, like the Chanel Orange that has been popular recently, or today’s deep aqua, you can’t mix it with other colours. You have to be bold and yet restrained at the same time in the use of a strong colour. I think that’s common sense. You don’t have to be a designer to think like that—a lot of design is also common sense.”

A bright Chanel Orange wall adds a youthful exuberance to a main room

Sunita on… FASHION

“Fashion (in terms of clothes) changes quickly from season to season, but interior design doesn’t change that often, because you can’t be repainting your walls every six months. You have to think things through a little more carefully. You have to live with these things for much longer.”

Hero image: Dulux

All body images courtesy of K2India.

Give your room an instant, colourful lift with Dulux Ambiance special effects paints. Choose from Linen, Marble, Metallic, Velvet or ColourMotion finishes. #MyFutureWall is a Dulux Ambiance wall.


Sunita is president of K2India Architects and Designers. She was the first interior designer to be conferred the Padma Shri for “contribution to national life”. She was also presented the Mahila Shiromani Award, which recognises women of achievement, by Mother Teresa.

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